For lovers of forests and wildlife, there is some good news. The new format of the Indian Forest Service exam likely to be introduced from 2013 could allow students from science and technology streams other than the conventional ones.
The environment ministry is in talks with the Union Public Service Commission on the new format, which can attract a large section of students without diluting the objectives of the paper. The modified format could come into force by next year.
Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh had initiated the process of reform in the IFS exam to attract youngsters from various fields to the forest service. India has 3,034 IFS officers with 66% of them being direct recruits.
The remaining is promoted from state government forest cadres.
But in the past 14 years, more officers than that required were hired, resulting in reduction of promotion avenues and frustration among the cadre, a ministerial committee to review the IFS system had said in May 2011.
Through the new format, the government aims to fill vacancies and create an efficient forest service to protect wildlife and forests while looking after the needs of people dependent on forests for their livelihood.
Graduates of traditional science subjects such as botany, zoology and math were allowed to appear for national IFS examination.
The ministry is now considering including subjects such as bio-technology and social sciences in the ambit of the IFS exam.
“The current day Indian Forest Service is more exciting and challenging than ever before,” said Dr PJ Dilip Kumar, director-general of forests and special secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Environment & Forests, to the students and IFS probationers during the Foundation Day lecture at the Indian Institute of Forest Management in Bhopal recently In recent years, the role of forest officials have widened with increasing interface with local communities and inclusion of scientific tools in managing forests.
The environment ministry has decided to expand the eligibility criteria for IFS, started by the British in 1864, as part of an exercise to restructure the forest bureaucracy with an aim to make it modern and competitive and is seeking the UPSC’s approval.
In a bid to get better quality candidates for the IFS, the ministry has worked out a test in English language and general study.
In addition, the exam will be conducted in all languages as applicable for other all Indian service examinations.
The ministry also wants the UPSC to increase the intake of IFS officers on annual basis to fill up the vacant posts.